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TACOMA: Layoffs will endanger public safety

Letter by Candice Tong, Gig Harbor on Dec. 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm with 28 Comments »
December 5, 2011 1:57 pm

Where is the uproar and public outrage against the possible fire station closures and impending layoffs affecting almost 100 Tacoma firefighters and police officers?

If the city’s goals are to delay response and transport times when your family members are injured or critically ill; to allow homes to burn down due to closure of fire stations, requiring engine companies to come from across the city; to wait in fear as minutes tick by as you observe or, worse yet, are a victim of a violent crime, then this goal will undoubtedly be attained by the personnel layoffs.

Tacoma firefighters and police officers have served our community faithfully, placing themselves in harm’s way daily and nightly. They have sacrificed their physical and emotional well-being for the safety of the Tacoma residents they dutifully serve. For many, this is a dream that they have worked so hard to achieve, and it is in the name of service and not monetary gain.

Proceeding with these drastic layoffs will endanger Tacoma citizens and their property and place firefighters and officers at risk with less back-up and resources. No good can come of sacrificing public safety. Ultimately, it will be at the expense of Tacoma citizens.

Leave a comment Comments → 28
  1. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    Have you been to a police station or fire district office lately? Well I have and I was shocked at the number of people hiding out in cubicles appearing to stay busy on the computer. Computers are placed in a way no one can see them so they could be surfing the web or selling stuff on ebay.

    Haven’t you learned you must protect yourself? Man up and get a gun. They won’t come when you call anyway or they will say their radio didn’t work.

    Don’t fall for the scare tactics when they lay off fire, police and teachers. It’s designed to soften you up for tax increases. WHERE ARE THE REFORMS!!!! Why didn’t their union brothers go back to the table so they could save their jobs? Answer, UNION GREED.

    We are paying for three fire and police departments. One active, one retired and one out sick on disability. The biggest scam outside of CA.

    We are seeing stage one of Greece in Tacoma. They have run out of your money so they will cut the workers, not cut management, and tax everything including the Arts to buy a little time. Well their chickens have come home to roost.

    Don’t fall for the fear factors. Demand reforms and a leaner government. Demand they lay off overpaid management and staff. Until such time they need more tax dollars to fund this:


  2. A321196 says:

    It’s really simple, there ain’t no money in the city coffers! What are the citizens to do? We cannot print money like the feds! Am I a retiree on a fixed income with no COLA for two years suppose to vote to raise my taxes? Oh, I am destined to get a 3.7% COLA next year. Wow!

    I’m glad to see you’re concerned about the fire and police response to fire emergencies and crime, although you reside in Gig Harbor. Oh, by any chance is hubby one of the numerous city employees who live outside the Tacoma City limits? You should not otherwise be impacted by any city layoffs unless you get mugged in downtown Tacoma while passing through. Any levies imposed to save city jobs will not be imposed on you. Stay on the other side of the bridge and everything will be OK.

  3. Taxed,
    So when you are not hanging out at OWS sites, you are hobnobbing with the police and fire fighters?

    Interesting. Very Interesting.

  4. A321196 says:

    PS to my comment:

    When the layoff notices go out perhaps contracts should be ignored. I’d rather see layoffs go to police and fire employees who live outside the city limits. They and other employees, such as Tacoma School District employees, only view Tacoma as a paycheck and nothing more.

  5. itwasntmethistime says:

    If you check out the TNT’s website for public employee pay you will see that most cops make about $100,000 per year. I understand it is a dangerous job, but they make a lot more than the average citizen paying their wage. If they all took a 20% cut they would still be making well over average and the layoffs could be avoided.

  6. PumainTacoma says:

    A321196 You hit the nail on the head! These city, county and school district employees send their kids to private schools, drive city cars home to Gig Harbor while complaining about Tacoma taxpayers (whose property taxes have a higher percentage tax rate per 1000 assessed value than even Beverly Hills) complain about not getting more pay. Well listen up. Tacoma is not a jobs program! No more gimme’s. Time to cut the fat. And as far as the scare tactics read the King 5 report where a couple couldn’t even get a cop (on duty being paid) to come to their house. Some workers should just be fired. http://www.king5.com/news/cities/tacoma/Thanksgiving-night-burglary-postpones-airman-deployment-134552328.html

  7. Itwasntme claims most police officers make about $100,000 per year.
    The TNT website for public employee pay says Itwasntme is a lier.


  8. TSkidmore says:

    The City Council has to take trips to Arizona, China, bring in “outside consultants (who cost about 80% more than if city employees did the job) and the list of mis-placed priorities goes on.

    As long as Tacoma has this unaccountable City Manager form of government where no one has to answer to anything – the city is run by bureaucrats and there is no way for the people to get a handle on who is doing what…there will be no real cost control. We could dump the entire city council and nothing will change….look at the joke of a “search” process right now…how many thousands has the city spent???

  9. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    xring, I get around and stay moving. I don’t spend all my time in the basement wearing only my underwear.

    Some of my best friends are firefighters and cops. I try to talk them all into donating their forced dues payments to charity. Have gotten 6 to move away from the union and working on more of them. I match their donations to their charity and the union bosses just love me.

  10. itwasntmethistime says:

    xring, your link is for July 2008 and it only shows salary, not overtime or shift differential. The link that shows what Tacoma cops earned in 2010 is http://www.thenewstribune.com/tacomacitypay/?appSession=425144807957143.

    I will concede that I did do a bit of rounding. If someone makes $94,000 I consider that to be around $100,000. Another thing is that the layoffs will affect those with 6 years or less on the job, and those guys only make about $75,000 to $80,000.

  11. A321196: we have lived, worked, served and owned property in Tacoma for the past 12 years and continue to do so. We pay taxes to the city, remain on the front lines, and have seen first hand how demanding our emergency response system is. Where I have recently chosen to move is completely irrelevant to the proposed lay-offs. We care about Tacoma, and that was what this letter is about.

  12. harleyrider1 says:

    Wages and their increases have come as a result of Union behaviors. The individual fire or police employee is forced to join the union. Don’t blame them – blame yourselves.

    This is not a right-to-work state.

    The LEOFF I (fire and police) state retirement system is fully funded and has no liabilities. None. There are only a few employees still working. Your legislature and other pension systems are meeting currently to make a “grab” for that money. Kind of like many others that have the spend, spend, spend and take mentality.

    There is no city pension for these guys.

    LEOFF II underwent significant pay-out reductions even when we had money and does not mirror LEOFF I. Fire and police employees pay thousands of dollars of their paychecks into this retirement plan.

    All salaries and pensions were Union directed.

    It’s your fault – This is not a right-to-work state. These folks cannot get a job, get their dream of being a fireman or police officer unless they join the union that you mandated.

    This is not a -right-to-work- state. Blame yourselves – you vote. You and your candidates control it.

  13. ttown98405 says:

    Constant training, drilling and studying is involved long after they have graduated recruit school. It is most likely that those ‘hiding’ in cubicles in are actually studying to become better trained to help you in an emergency? Or completing paper work for one of the 14,500 calls for help firefighters get each year.

    Their job puts their own lives and health at risk. Need I remind you of the two year anniversary of four police officers who were tragically shot, just for wearing a badge? How much money will it take to get you on top of a burning asbestos filled building to ventilate a house full of people. Firefighters are also at risk of communicable diseases such as Mercer and AIDS when required to give emergency medical aid.

    For those reasons I would classify Police and firefighters as specialty skilled workers.

    If only simply owning a gun would alleviate my concerns of this cut on public safety. It doesn’t, because I am not qualified to give any sort of medical aid if I am in a car accident, nor do I have a magical fire hose to put out an engulfing fire that my neighbor starts. I would not know what to do if my daughter falls and splits her head on a rock or be able to protect myself if multiple armed attackers attack me at once.

    As a resident of Tacoma, I have called on Police help. I can’t imagine not being able to get the help I need in a timely manner or the rise in crime that is already a concern in this city.

    My biggest question that angers me most, however, remains unanswered. In as late as August of this year, the budget looked good and the firefighters were approved by the city to hire 16 firefighters. 6 weeks later, there is a 30 million dollar deficit and a need to close 4 fire stations? While it is easy to blame ‘Union greed’, this is not the case. I can’t help but suggest gross mismanagement from the City of Tacoma is to blame. How did we get into such a budget crisis in such a short time? And what are our tax dollars paying for that is more important than keeping the citizens of Tacoma safe? We cannot afford to reduce police and fire force to less than a third of it’s existing presence. Our lives are at risk, no matter which way you look at it.

    I will be looking for answers at tonight’s City Council Meeting.

  14. I could only wish that TaxedEnough has the opportunity to test the response times after the layoffs.

    In the recovery arena, there is a saying – “they need to feel their own pain”

  15. RW – better still let TE (who admits to setting around while not wearing underware) try to pass the physical tests requied to enter police or firefigter training.

  16. itwasntmethistime says:

    ttown98405 — There is no doubt police officers and firefighters acquire job-specific skills. There is doubt, however, that they wouldn’t do their jobs for any less pay. Fire department testing draws literally hundreds of applicants from all over. Of those 7 or 8 hundred people who show up for each test, at least a few hundred are fully qualified for the position. After they pick the cream of the crop there is plenty of top-notch cream left over. With that kind of competition I don’t think it would be tough to lower the wages 20% and still fill our police stations and fire houses with top quality people.

  17. BlaineCGarver says:

    The point being, is that They will try to scare you with the worst possible cuts. There are cuts they could make in middle management, and give-aways for welfair/drunk/dopers. As far as 911, learn CPR, and buy and learn how to use a gun. Police take many minutes when seconds count.

  18. commoncents says:

    Blaine, having spent a lot of time with my neighbors…I do NOT want them armed.

    itwasntme…I’m sure that you are willing to take a paycut to help the cause and then institute a paycap on your own compensation so that you can never hope to recover the comp that you voluntarily gave up, right? Oh wait…you’re part of the private sector that is too important and critical to the well being of the people. There is ALWAYS someone willing and able to do the work for less…but then again, that’s why people scream about illegals. Because they 1) do the work for less and allow business owners to profit off their backs instead of providing quality wages and 2) suck up valuable state resources due to the fact that they are working for low wages.

  19. CTong: OK, so you have property in Tacoma. Investment property? Fire and police to protect your property? You do not live in Tacoma.

    You still have not offered a solution to funding. I’ve yet to see an investor in real estate NOT pass along expenses of taxes and utilities to the occupant, be it residential or commercial property.

  20. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    xring, as a female I don’t want to be a police or fireman. I don’t believe in lowering standards so females can apply.

    Call me old fashioned but a woman’s place is not on the police force. I want the strongest, biggest and smartest male for my tax dollars.

    There is a reason for physical standards but liberals don’t like anything but LOW standards.

  21. I’m willing to pay more property taxes if it means keeping Tacoma residents and employees safe. I care about the friends and family who live in the city, and that concern does not end at city lines. Don’t make false assumptions about me as a property owner from out of your own experiences. I still work in Tacoma, and no, I do not see the city as just a paycheck. I strongly doubt that teachers for the Tacoma School District see their classroom or students as a paycheck. Why would you make such an indignant assumption about people who serve others, regardless of where they live?

    This public safety cut affects everyone who drives through, lives nearby, works in Tacoma. TFD and TPD provide mutual aid to neighboring communities so there will be a ripple effect. Passing this budget cut will set precedence to other municipal fire and law enforcement, and if Tacoma finds it acceptable, then other cities will too.

    Part of the reason why some fire and law enforcement personnel gross $90k is because they are called in to work overtime in their already under staffed departments. Would you ask to be paid your normal hourly wage of you have already worked >60 hrs that week?

    Bottom line is that there is no easy, clear cut solution to this problem. One thing that doesn’t solve anything is being derisive and inflammatory with your comments.

    The budget needs to be trimmed with surgical precision, not just laying off public safety workers. Could administrative or higher paid positions of city management take a pay-cut? Absolutely. Could we increase revenue by charging more for transportation to the hospital? Yes; not every ambulance ride is justifiable by medical necessity. Can we consider pay cuts in other city departments prior to lay offs? Definitely. Where is the dialogue that occurs before these lay offs were even considered an option?

  22. CitizenforTacomaSafety says:

    I have to say that I am saddened by some of the statements that I have read. How could anyone doubt that what the Interim City Manager is proposing is anything other than harmful & ridiculous!
    When it’s your home that’s on fire, when you become the victim of a crime or you and/or a family member needs immediate medical assistance and it’s not readily available you’ll be singing a completely different song.
    Be very careful what you stand behind because you just may get it!

    As for those who believe that policemen & firemen are overpaid, let’s be realistic. They RISK THEIR LIVES to keep the citizens of this city out of harm’s way (That includes all of you that are making these disparaging comments). There is truly NO PRICE THAT CAN BE PLACED ON THAT! When’s the last time that you rescued someone from a burning building? When’s the last time that you protected someone from being raped or murdered? When’s the last time that you provided life saving aid to an individual suffering from a heart attack? When’s that last time that you’ve been shot at?

    And for those of you who believe that this is nothing more than a SCARE TACTIC to facilitate the passing of a tax increase, well, you SHOULD BE SCARED!!!! The proposed cuts are going to shrink two of the city’s most vital services to a degree that will not allow them to provide the protection that we all so desperately need.
    If a tax increase is what’s necessary then I for one am all in!!! Bring on the tax increase and leave our police and fire staffing levels as they are!!!

    The bottom line is that the policemen & firemen who protect us deserve our respect!
    This issue was NOT caused by anything that they or their unions for that matter have done. It’s a sad but simple case of gross mismanagement on the former City Manager’s behalf. Now he’s gone & we’re left with this mess!
    Up until now, the word has been that the City of Tacoma was operating in the black. Which was clearly not true, a deficit this large does not materialize in a matter of months. This has been years in the making.

    Please think and educate yourselves regarding the topic at hand before you speak, you’re making both yourselves and the citizens of this city look horrible!

  23. itwasntmethistime says:

    commoncents — I have taken a pay cut of about 50% over the past two years. It hurts. We’ve changed almost everything about our household budget and we’ll make it, unless my income drops further. After the mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, and tuition the small amount of pocket money we have is quickly consumed by miscellaneous needs such as sports fees for kids.

    CTong — Of course you would be willing to pay more in taxes. That’s because your husband earns more than a “living wage” and presumably has some discretionary funds left over each month. I guess if you chose to take out an enormous mortgage you might not have much wiggle room, but that’s not really our fault.

    Citizen — There sure is a price that can be put on public safety. That price is what we can pay. If we can’t pay it the price is too high. It’s not disrespectful for citizens to ask public safety officers to cut their pay to an affordable level, it’s disrespectful for public safety officers to continue to squeeze the citizens who are having trouble paying their high wages.

  24. CitizenforTacomaSafety says:


    We have all been hit hard by the recession. I personally have not seen a wage increase in over five years while the cost of living continues rise so I understand your point. However, when it comes to this particular topic, I’m willing to sacrifice further if it means that I have some peace of mind regarding my safety & that of the ones that I love. I firmly believe that there are some things in this world that you truly cannot put a price tag on.

    I say keep them staffed & give them their money because if we’re honest there aren’t many of us who are willing or even able to endure all that they do in the name of protecting this city.
    Death & violence are all in a day’s work for them, you have to respect that.

  25. itwasntmethistime says:

    No, not everybody has been hit hard by this recession. Of the huge number of people I know, most are either making more money, the same money, or just a little bit less than they used to make. I know plenty of families who have lost half of their income (like mine) and a few who are in serious trouble, but the vast majority are doing just fine.

    If you are struggling because you haven’t had a wage increase in 5 years, but you haven’t actually lost more than 20% of your income, you’ve been spending too much money for too long. The cost of living has not gone up enough over 5 years that you should be hit “hard.”

  26. FoughtForMyRightToOpinion says:

    US population 2009: 307,006,550.
    2008 TARP bank bailout: $700,000,000,000.
    Cost of IRAQ War: $3,700,000,000,000.
    Afgan War: $1,200,000,000,000.
    Total: 5,600,000,000,000 + Interest payments to the Central Bank who loaned the US this cash…interest payments to countries like CHINA…and the result?
    Each American in this generation will hand over a debt between $300k-$500k to our children, just from this last decade alone.
    And, were gonna fix this by laying off our a few hundred public safety employees in every city? What…to the tune of an average salary of $65,000 per employee? Because this will support small business? Attract, stimulate growth? Holly crap people…I’m trying really hard to keep the faith…but you are some of the most selfish, ignorant people on this planet.

  27. The news article posted tonight concerning the council meeting states in part there are 1,503 city employees paid out of the general fund. Presumably workers in the city utility division are paid out of billings for utilities and Click TV. It would be nice to see just what everyone is doing. If I remember correctly that new computer system installed several years ago lead to hiring of 50 employees because the system did not work. Are they still there?

    And, let’s not forget the ten year property tax abatement the city council showered on builders and investors on the premises the city would not have collected anything on vacant property. So, the rest of us have picked up the tab for the freeloaders. Shared sacrifice? How much tax revenue could have been collected on the structure values of those exempt properties?

    It was also notable during this evenings meeting Mayor Strickland pointed out the ‘rain forests’ and other programs are not paid out of the general funds. Nope, they are dedicated monies. Dedicated monies for ‘feel good’ projects. Still comes from citizen’s tax money.

  28. itwasntmethistime says:

    You know, I’ve had all night to think about my comment about how the recession hasn’t been too hard on most of the people I know. What I realized is that the reason I feel this way is that a good portion of the people I know are firefighters, police officers (including deputies and troopers,) teachers, and/or military. Jobs that pay more than a “living wage” haven’t been hit hard at all.

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